VAIL — It’s true that certain children have a natural gift for music, but others just need to get their hands on an instrument to unveil their hidden talent.
Expanding on last year’s inaugural Jammin’ Jazz Kids program, the Vail Jazz Foundation offers a free children’s jazz class every Sunday in July and is teaming up with the Vail Recreation District for a more comprehensive Jammin’ Jazz Kids program every Monday.
Welcoming all children 8 to 12 years old, both Sunday and Monday Jammin’ Jazz Kids classes feature local piano sensation Tony Gulizia and drummer Brian Loftus, the pair known around town by their stage name, BLT. Using a dynamic, hands-on approach, the classes incorporate a variety of instruments: tambourines, bongos, congas, maracas as well as Orff instruments — xylophones specially set up with the blues scale.
“It’s so important for children of this age to learn about the musical world and its importance,” said Gulizia, who has taught thousands of children’s musical classes throughout the Vail Valley, including The Vail Jazz Foundation’s Jazz Goes to School program, after which Jammin’ Jazz Kids is modeled. In 16 years, Jazz Goes to School has introduced jazz to more than 16,000 students, many of whom have gone on to become successful musicians.
“Some of the kids get totally absorbed. They’re all sitting on the floor and some are up on their knees, just fascinated by everything they see and hear,” said Robin Litt, Vail Jazz Foundation executive director. “The goal is to introduce youngsters to the art form, opening their eyes and ears to the sounds of jazz in hopes of developing future appreciation and even inspiring them to become artists themselves.”
The classes take children through key fundamentals of jazz music — rhythm, syncopation, improvisation and call and response. The Sunday classes are 45-minute sessions and take place at the Jazz Tent at Solaris in Vail and welcome children on a first-come, first-served basis. The Monday classes are 90 minutes and are more comprehensive renditions of the same concepts, introducing specific styles such as bebop, swing and Latin jazz, allowing the students to perform impromptu concerts in Lionshead, putting their new skills to the immediate test.
“It’s a lot more rewarding and has a much higher educational aspect when the kids are getting to learn hands-on,” Gulizia said. “You take the knowledge and the ability with you when you learn how to do it yourself.”
“It’s so important for children of this age to learn about the musical world and its importance.”